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A long wait for Victims' Commissioner is drawing to a close

By Brian Rowan

Published 09/07/2015

First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness
First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness

After a year-long wait, a decision on the next Victims' Commissioner may now be closer.

It is understood that Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness have been meeting those candidates deemed appointable.

According to informed sources, at least three women and at least one man have made the pool.

Back in May this newspaper reported that former Stormont MLA Dawn Purvis was in the running for the £75,000 a year job.

The post has been vacant since Kathryn Stone left around this time last year. It has been a long wait since then.

Several weeks ago former commissioner and current Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt told the Belfast Telegraph that the delay in making an appointment was sending out "a really bad signal" and said it was "incredibly important" that the post was filled. That moment of decision may now be looming.

The commissioner works alongside a Victims Forum and whoever gets the job will be in post as work continues to implement the proposals on the past that are part of the wider Stormont House Agreement.

As well as a Historical Investigations Unit, an Independent Commission for Information-Retrieval and an Implementation and Reconciliation Group, there are specific proposals, including those for a comprehensive Mental Trauma Service.

The agreement also included this paragraph: "Further work will be undertaken to seek an acceptable way forward on the proposal for a pension for severely physically injured victims in Northern Ireland."

But there are battles still being fought over the very definition of victim and, specific to that pension proposal, on who should qualify and who shouldn't.

The Wave Trauma Centre in Belfast recently urged progress on the implementation of proposals on the past, saying that people had been asked to wait for the outworking of the Eames/Bradley process, then the detail of the Haass/O'Sullivan negotiations, followed by the Stormont House Agreement.

It has been a very long wait - not just for that to happen, but for a new Victims' Commissioner to be appointed.

  • Brian Rowan is a writer and commentator on security issues

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